Gogo: Nature Transformed
January 19–August 25, 2013
Gogo: Nature Transformed explores the role the natural environment plays in shaping the jewelry and home wares created by Georgia designer Janet “Gogo” Ferguson. This is the first museum exhibition to showcase Gogo’s designs, inspired mainly by found objects from Georgia’s southernmost barrier island, Cumberland Island.
Gogo Logo Necklace, 1990Gogo Logo Necklace, 1990
Made by Henry Vo, 1990–2011; Vitor Toniolo, 2011–2012; Abel Jacob and David Ciralsky, 2012–present
Sterling silver, 14-karat gold, and Bali beads
The rattlesnake, and more specifically its bones, is indelibly linked with Gogo’s jewelry designs. Around 1978 Gogo began the design of her iconic logo: three rattlesnake ribs curving in on each side with a vertebra in the center. Originally created out of found bones, Gogo went on to cast the logo in both gold and silver to create a more durable, elegant version.
Armadillo Shell Necklace, ca. 1994Armadillo Shell Necklace, ca. 1994
Made by Henry Vo, 1994–2011; Vitor Toniolo, 2011–2012; Abel Jacob and David Ciralsky, 2012–present
14-karat gold and black onyx
This elegant cast necklace works based on the armadillo’s hard shell exude the strength and survival skills of the animal, while the narrow, delicate bones of the vertebrae and sternum underscore the delicacy of its interior structure.
Raccoon Pecker Earrings, 1986Raccoon Pecker Earrings, 1986
Made by Henry Vo, 1986–2011; Vitor Toniolo, 2011–2012; Abel Jacob and David Ciralsky, 2012–present
Gogo’s earliest work incorporated raw materials — bones, shells, and even feet — which she transformed into personal adornment, creating elegant wearable sculpture as she had done all her life growing up on Cumberland Island. One of the hallmarks of her life’s work is her love and appreciation of nature and its history. The “Coon Pecker” pieces, as she refers to them, grew out of a fascination in her youth of watching ranch hands on the island make toothpicks out of the saxophone-shaped penis bone of the raccoon.
New England Seaweed, 2012New England Seaweed, 2012
Made by Julio Miguel Pérez Rodríguez, 2012
Having grown up on an island, the sea is an important part of daily life for Gogo. Much of her inspiration is found during morning walks on the beaches of Cumberland Island. Gogo’s latest work — a seaweed wall sculpture — was inspired by a piece of seaweed found on a beach walk in New England and was specially created for this exhibition.
Eucalyptus Candleholder, 2008Eucalyptus Candleholder, 2008
Made by Julio Miguel Pérez Rodríguez, 2008–present
About eight years ago, Gogo began experimenting with the metal alloy Alpaca (a mixture of nickel, copper, and zinc). With a desire to create works at a more affordable price point, Alpaca was a perfect alternative to 14-karat gold or sterling silver. At that time, she also began working with Julio Miguel Pérez Rodríguez, who owns a metalsmith shop in San Miguel, Mexico, where Gogo also lives part-time. Instead of casting natural forms, which captures every detail, Julio and his artisans hand pound the alloy, so each piece has its own slight variations. Gogo’s line of home wares has expanded over the years from candleholders, salt wells, and serving pieces to her new venture into home furnishings with her sea urchin pouf.
Seaweed Cuff (prototype), 2012Seaweed Cuff (prototype), 2012
Designed by Gogo Ferguson (born 1951) and
Hannah Sayre-Thomas (born 1985)
Made by Julio Miguel Pérez Rodríguez, 2012–present
Gogo endlessly experiments with source material, shape, and balance. Her design process is largely intuitive; natural objects are lovingly handled, with tactile exploration of the ridges, irregularities, and overall form of the piece. Gogo explores the possibilities of wearable adornment by trying things against her own body to get a sense of the contours, curves, and scale. This seaweed cuff is asymmetrical and clings casually — almost haphazardly — to the wearer’s wrist.
Gogo: Nature Transformed explores the role the natural environment plays in shaping the jewelry and home wares created by Georgia designer Janet “Gogo” Ferguson. Cumberland Island, the southernmost barrier island on the Georgia coast, plays a formative role in Gogo’s work as both her home base and her primary source of inspiration. From the bones of animals to shells and seaweed washed ashore, nature provides the foundation for the elegant and eclectic works of wearable art produced under Gogo’s creative lens.
Though the root of her inspiration has remained unchanged, Gogo’s work has evolved and transformed over time using different materials and techniques. Originally she worked with the source material, combining bones and shells into striking but often fragile works. Eventually she cast gold and/or silver versions using the lost-wax process — a technique that captures every detail of the original objects. Recently she has begun to make more use of high-tech equipment to manipulate found forms using 3-D scanning technology. She also works with artisans who hand pound Alpaca — a metal alloy consisting of copper, nickel, and zinc — creating more fluid, interpretive works that are still based on the natural elements Gogo finds both in her travels and in the rarified environment of Cumberland Island.
Gogo Ferguson and her work are firmly rooted in the history and iconography of her family and her home on Cumberland Island, Georgia. A direct descendant of Andrew Carnegie’s brother Thomas Carnegie, who bought the island in the late nineteenth century, Gogo grew up and still makes her home on Cumberland Island. The southernmost barrier island in Georgia, Cumberland Island is a place of extremes. Defined at times by wealth and prestige, it is a nature-lover’s paradise.
Partially gifted by the Carnegie family to the National Park Service, Cumberland Island is home to wild horses, boars, turkeys, and other undomesticated animals. In 1962 Lucy R. Ferguson, Gogo’s grandmother, converted the family home on Cumberland Island into the Greyfield Inn. This provided a source of revenue for the family and, if desired, a place where any member could work and live. In 1986 Gogo, with her infant daughter Hannah, returned permanently to Cumberland Island and developed a new business, Gogo Jewelry.
Since launching her jewelry enterprise, Gogo’s career milestones include designing John and Carolyn Kennedy’s wedding rings and a necklace for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Her designs have been gifted to heads of state and first ladies including being presented to international dignitaries visiting Atlanta for the Olympic Games in 1996.
Now twenty-six years later, Hannah has begun designing and is currently the president of Gogo Jewelry, now a family legacy.
This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art.
Generous support of this exhibition is provided by Friends of Gogo and the Isobel Anne Fraser-Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment.